The sorrowful complaint of Susan Higges,

Title

The sorrowful complaint of Susan Higges,

Subtitle

a lusty Countrey Wench, dwelling in Risborrow in Buckinghamshire, who for twenty yeeres, most gallantly maintained her selfe by Robberies on the high-way side, and such like practises. And lastly, how she was executed at Brickhill, at the Assises, for a murther by her committed upon Messeldon Heath. To the tune of Lusty Gallant.

Synopsis

Susan Higges, highway robber, blackmails young men whom she finds with the maids in her house and for 20 years robs people on the highway. Her final victim, a woman, recognises her and is killed for it, but spits blood in Higges' face that will not wash off. In fear, Higges confesses her crimes.

Digital Object

Image / Audio Credit

Magdalene College - Pepys Library, Pepys Ballads 1.113 (cf Roxburghe 1.424-425: adds extra stanza); EBBA 20002

Set to tune of...

Lusty Gallant

Transcription

TO mourne for my offences, and former passed sinnes,
This sad and dolefull story, my heavy heart begins:
Most wickedly I spent my time. devoide of godly grace:
A lewder Woman never liv'd, I thinke in any place.

Nare Buckingham I dwelled, and Susan Higges by name,
Well thought of by good Gentlemen and Farmers of good fame:
Where thus.for xx. yeares at least, I liv'd in gallant sort:
Which made the Country marvell much, to here of my report.

My state was not maintained,
(as you shall understand)
By good and honest dealings, nor labour of my hand:
But by deceipt and couzening shifts the end whereof, we see
Hath ever beene repaide with shame and ever like to be.

My servants were young Countrey girles brought up unto my mind,
By nature faire and beautifull, and of a gentle kinde:
Who with their sweet intising eyes, did many Youngsters move
To come by night unto my house in hope of further love.

But still at their close meetings, (as I the plot had late)
I slept in still at unawares, while they the wantons plaid.
And would in question bring their names, except they did agree
To give me money for this wrong, done to my house and me.

This was but petty couzenage, to things that I have done:
My weapon by the high-way side, hath me much money wonne:
In mens attyre I oft have rode, upon a Gelding stout,
And done great robberies valiantly, the Countries round about.

I had my Scarfes and Vizards, my face for to disguise:
Sometime a beard upon my chin, to blinde the peoples eyes.
My Turkie blade, and Pistols good, my courage to maintaine:
Thus took I many a Farmers purse well cram'd with golden gaine.

Great store of London Marchants I boldly have bid Stand,
And showed my selfe most bravely, a Woman of my hand,
You rulsling Roysters, every one in my defence say then,
Wee women still for gallant minds, may well compare with men.

But if so bee it chanced, the Countries were beset,
With hue and cryes and warrants into my house I get:
And I so being with my Maides, would cloake the matter so,
That no man could by any meanes, the right offender know.

Yet God that still most justly, doth punish every vice,
Did bring unto confusion my fortunes in a trice:
For by a murther all my sinnes were strangly brought to light:
And such desert I had by law, as justice claim'd by right.

Upon the Heath of Misseldon, I met a woman there,
And robd her, as from market, home-wards she did repaire:
Which woman cald me by my name and said, that she me knew:
For which, even with her lifes deare bloud, my hands I did imbrew.

But after I had wounded, this women unto death,
And that her bleeding body, was almost reft of breath:
She gave a grone: and therewithall did spit upon my face,
Three drops of blood, that never could be wiped from that place:

For after I returned unto my house againe,
The more that I it washde, it more appeared plaine:
Each houre I thought that beasts, [&] birds this murther would reveale,
Or that the ayre, so vile a deede, no longer would conceale.

So heavy at my conscience, this wofull murther lay,
That I was soone inforced, the same for to beware,
And to my servants made it known,
as God appointed me:
For blood can never secret rest,
nor long unpunisht be.

My servants to the Justices,
declar'd what I had said:
For which I was attached,
and to the Jayle convaied,
And at the Sises was condemnd, and had my just desert:
Even such a death let all them have, that beare so false a heart.

Be warned by this story, you ru[s]sling Rosters all:
The higher that you climbe in sinne the greater is your fall:
For now the world so wicked is, in Maiden and in Wife
That few, or none, can finde the way to lead an honest life.
FINIS.

Method of Punishment

hanging?

Crime(s)

murder, highway robbery

Gender

Date

Execution Location

Brickhill Assises

Printing Location

London for H.G.

Tune Data

  • Reference: Lusty Gallant (Simpson 1966 pp. 476-78) 
  • Date: Tune was already well known in 1566 
  • Link: Tune on the right is sung to tune of Lusty Gallant, tune on left is the right words, but sung to The London Prentice.

Files

PepysC_1_113_2448x2448.jpg

Citation

“The sorrowful complaint of Susan Higges, ,” Execution Ballads, accessed October 29, 2021, https://omeka.cloud.unimelb.edu.au/execution-ballads/items/show/923.